Four Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) elected officials in Atlanta donated papers to Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Library (MARBL) earlier this month that reveal their experiences as official figures and members of the LGBTQ community.
The donors include Georgia State Rep. Karla Drenner, Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan, Doraville City Council member Brian Bates and Atlanta political activist Ken Britt.
Wan, who donated the materials from his 2004 campaign for the Georgia House of Representatives as well as his campaign materials from the 2009 and 2013 Atlanta City Council races, said these documents will be crucial to historians in looking back on the lives of members of the LGBTQ community and clearly tracing their development.
Wan said he plans to donate materials from the years he served on City Council and other related files he will come across during his time in office.
“While all of us in the LGBT community are doing the work each day to advance us closer to full equality, we can’t really appreciate the piece each of us plays and how the small, incremental gains and losses we make each day play into the broader human rights arc,” Wan said.
Drenner, the first LGBTQ elected official to win a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives, said it was easy to choose to place his papers at Emory due to the University’s commitment to LGBTQ rights in Georgia colleges, according to a Nov. 4 Robert W. Woodruff press release.
“I hope that researchers will gain an appreciation of the contradictions involved in fighting for the right of gay people to be who we are and love who we love, in the midst of Southern good manners,” Drenner said in the Woodruff press release. “It was odd to fight against discrimination by the people who often would tell me it was ‘not meant personally.'”
According to a Nov. 8 University press release, MARBL introduced these papers on Nov. 18 at a discussion with the donors following a screening of the award-winning documentary “Breaking Through.”
MARBL is currently staging an exhibit called “Building a Movement in the Southeast: LGBT Collections in MARBL,” which features various LGBTQ materials, in the MARBL Gallery on Level 10 of the Robert W, Woodruff Library, according to the press release.
“MARBL is committed to being a nationally recognized center for collections that document LGBT history, culture, politics, print culture and public health initiatives in Atlanta, Georgia and the South,” Randy Gue, modern political and historical collections curator, said in the press release.
According to Gue, these papers are the first that the MARBL has received from LBGTQ elected officials.
Wan said he hopes this collection at MARBL will become a main source for accessing LGBTQ history and culture.
“I hope it also sends a strong signal to both the Emory community and the broader community that contributions and efforts of members of the LGBT community are valued,” Wan said.
– By Naomi Maisel